I'm looking for the name of a short sci-fi story about a town located near a massive, seemingly endless wall. When the inhabitants find a hole in the wall, they send a man in to investigate what's on the other side. When the man reaches the other side, he's flabbergasted at finding out he's reached the same location, being greeted by the same townsfolk he left behind.

Update: The story was similar to J.G. Ballard's "The Concentration City" or "What Dead Men Tell" by Theodore Sturgeon, in that the protagonist discovers that, if one kept traveling forward, one finally ended back in the same place (Wormhole/Möbius Strip/Space-time distortion kind of phenomenon). One additional detail I remembered is that at one point, when the protagonist is going through the tunnel in the wall, he sees the light at the point where he entered moving farther away the more he advanced, beginning to see light at the opposite direction up ahead (meaning he simultaneously could see both entrance and exit at one point). But when he reached the end, it was the same entry point where he had waved goodbye to the townsfolk. The story didn't include intricate plot points of any sort, only a town surrounded by this immense wall, a man entering through a newly-discovered crack/crevice/hole in the wall, going through a tunnel-like passageway, then exiting the same way he came, being asked by the townsfolk (who think he returned) what he saw, much to his shock.

These stories contain similar elements to the one I'm looking for: "The Concentration City" by J.G. Ballard. "What Dead Men Tell" by Theodore Sturgeon. "The Wall of Darkness" by Arthur C. Clarke. "The Wall Around the World" by Theodore R. Cogswell. "The Tunnel Under the World" by Frederik Pohl. "The Tunnel in the Sky" by Robert Heinlein. "The Long Wall/Settler's Wall" by W. O. Morley (R. A. W. Lowndes). "The Pen and the Dark" by Colin Kapp. "The People on the Precipice" by Ian Watson. "On" by Adam Roberts. "Escapement" (Clockwork Earth #2) by Jay Lake. "Stone and Sky" (The Stone Trilogy #1) by Graham Edwards. "Kingdoms of the Wall" by Robert Silverberg. "Stardust" by Neil Gaiman. "The Tunnel Ahead" by Alice Glasser. "The Wall at the Edge of the World" by Jim Aikin.

These don't have similar plot elements, but the titles can be misleading, listed here for clarification: "The Crack in the Wall" by Walter Jarvis. "The Great Wall" by Wayne Wightman. "The Other Side of the Wall" by Stanley Ellin.

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    Arthur Clarke wrote a story about a planet that had a wall over one pole. A man erected a platform to reach the top of the wall and then walked, he thought, to the other side, which turned out to be the place he started from. Check out this previous description. Jun 20, 2020 at 14:16
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    Yes, I've come across "The Wall of Darkness" before but it's not that one. The short story (actually a micro-short story, it was very short) clearly depited a cave-like tunnel in the wall, through which a man enters, waving goodbye at the townsfolk only to find them at the other side, while clearly heading forwards, opposite them. When asked what he saw, the man doesn't know what to answer, and the story ends.
    – Sonny Z.
    Jun 20, 2020 at 17:50
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    Not what you're looking for but you might want to check out a couple more stories in the one-sided-wall subgenre: "The Long Wall" by "W. O. Morley" (pseud. of R. A. W. Lowndes) and "Settler's Wall" by Lowndes, a revised version of the former. Links are to the Internet Archive.
    – user14111
    Jun 21, 2020 at 3:51
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    Reminds me a little bit of "The Pen and the Dark" by Colin Kapp: oikofuge.com/kapp-unorthodox-engineers In that story, an engineer manages to break through to an area that visiting ETs had surrounded with a "wall of darkness." He drives segments of pipe into the wall with high explosives or some such. The man who goes through the pipe, does not come back to where he started, but he does count exactly twice as many segments as the number that they drove in before he reaches the other side. Jun 22, 2020 at 17:28
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    It’s also (pretty certainly) not “The Wall Around The World” by Theodore Cogswell.
    – Mike Scott
    Sep 24, 2020 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


after much researching and nearly driving myself insane with this story search, I have come to the conclusion that it must have been "The Wall of Darkness" by Clarke. All the details coincide, except for the tunnel/crack in the wall, and the townsfolk asking him at the end what he saw. Perhaps, I have mixed stories, and my fading memory didn't help. For now, I am placing "The Wall of Darkness" as the correct answer, since it's the story that most resembles mine and I have found absolutely no trace of the other one, which should've probably popped up by now. Many thanks to all who answered and considered this. Should I by some crazy chance ever happen to find one similar to the one I described initially, I shall post it as an update.

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    Even if you don't find a better match one day, come back here once and a while; we've had questions answered many years later...someone else might still find it for you!
    – Basya
    May 30, 2023 at 9:53
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    Thanks! Will do! I might also have other stories in need of identification!
    – Sonny Z.
    May 30, 2023 at 21:30

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